ow can you describe your entire movie in only a few words? All that hard work, time, and money comes down to a simple phrase: the movie tagline. We combed through countless taglines, and picked the best movie taglines of all time so you can better craft your own. Let’s go!
The IMportance of a Tag
1. What is a movie tagline?
The best tagline is a delicate art unto itself. A balance of informative, compelling, and silly. The very best ones cut dangerously close to the very worst.
So what's the secret?
How can you learn the art of the tagline? Let's first define it. Then we'll start in the past.
What is a tagline?
A movie tagline is a short text which serves to clarify an idea for, or is designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with the film.
General considerations for movie taglines:
- It can speak directly to the plot of the film
- It can speak to the experience you might have watching the film
- It will often use puns or turns of phrase
Some examples of movie taglines could be unrelated to the plot of the movie. They can also be super plot-specific.
Some work because of the puns. Others work because they don't work at all. But they are concise and memorable.
Let's take a walk down memory lane.
Classic Movie Taglines
2. A look at the classics
Ahh, the classics. Some of them feel a little dated, but the core of what would define the greatest taglines were established in the early days.
"From the moment they met it was murder."
Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity is a work of noir genius. Every line of dialogue is as sharp as the tagline itself. If you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat.
Learn more dialogue tips for your own writing and also for your inevitable tagline. It might spark the creativity that you need.
Father of the Bride
"The Bride gets the THRILLS, the father gets the BILLS."
This one feels a bit dated, but the rhyme works, and the comedy of the situation is pretty clear.
The Lady Eve
"When you deal a fast shuffle, love is in the cards."
Another Barbara Stanwyck starrer, The Lady Eve is about a con where real feelings get involved. There is a pivotal card game as well, so the famous tagline says it all in snappy fashion.
12 Angry Men
"Life is in their hands -- Death is on their minds."
More Henry Fonda! Sidney Lumet's terse jury room drama gets a movie tagline that brings the stakes to the fore. This is necessary because it's a movie about a conversation in one room.
The Magnificent Seven
"They were 7... and they fought like 700."
A play upon the number in the title that also gets us excited for an epic showdown. The best movie taglines do this with such ease.
"A man went looking for America, and he couldn't find it anywhere."
Easy Rider was a true game changer. The tagline, and movie capture a cultural moment where everything shifted. It speaks to a specific movement. Powerful.
The Sound of Music
"The Happiest Sound in All the World."
Perhaps the most famous musical of all time, with a movie tagline that emphasizes genre and a desired emotional result.
Some modern musicals like "La La Land" stand without a tagline but captured audiences in a very different way. Learn more about how to write a musical, and analyze the hit.
"On every street in every city in this country, there is a nobody who dreams of being a somebody."
Intrigued? Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader's study of existential loneliness is a film buff favorite. Robert De Niro had already broken out, but as Travis Bickle, he became a true screen icon.
Bonnie and Clyde
"They're young, they're in love, and they kill people."
The "sudden left turn approach" teases our interest. Juxtapose the young couple with murder, and you've got people hooked.
"The story of a man who was too proud to run."
Pure, straightforward and admirable. A lot like it's star, Gary Cooper. If you aren't inspired by the old-fashioned heroism hinted at in this movie tagline, you will be when you see the movie.
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
"The nearer they get to the treasure the farther they get from the law."
Another movie tagline that implies an uncertain danger within the story, almost asking the audience a question.
COMEDIC MOVIE TAGLINES
3. These get ‘em laughing
Comedy is a great genre mainly if you're looking for the best taglines. Best taglines often have a little humor even if the subject matter isn't a comedy in nature... If it is?
Well, then they have free reign to be silly. Here are our picks for the best:
Dumb and Dumber
"For Harry and Lloyd, every day is a no-brainer."
"Who you gonna call?"
This is one of those best taglines that became synonymous with the movie itself, and part of the cultural lexicon.
Catch Me if You Can
"The true story of a real fake."
A fun play on words which is an excellent movie tagline tactic, and reflects this particular movie's plot.
Grosse Pointe Blank
"Even a hitman deserves a second shot."
The title is a pun; the tagline is a pun. If you don't like puns, you probably don't like movie taglines…
Naked Gun 33 & ⅓
"From the brother of the director of Ghost."
The Naked Gun movies are spoofs. The taglines are spoofs of taglines. Here, they take on the movie tagline tactic of mentioning tenuous connections to recent big hits.
"If you only see one movie this year... you need to get out more often."
Another funny parody of a typical movie tagline tactic.
It's funny because it's true.
Weekend at Bernie's
"He may be dead but he’s the life of the party."
Weekend at Bernie's belongs on any list. It would be here even if the tagline was awful. Fortunately, it's pretty good.
"If at first you don't succeed, lower your standards."
The beloved Farley and Spade comedy has a great tagline. This tactic is to put a spin on a well-known turn of phrase. It's effective and done in taglines quite a bit.
"Escape or die frying."
Puns. Common sayings. Short and to the point. This one has it all.
The Truman Show
"On the air and unaware."
This tagline tells you the story of the movie with a nice little rhyme. This sort of movie tagline is part of why people sometimes confuse a tagline with the more informative cousin: the logline.
If you want to know more this, check out our post on how to formulate loglines.
"Nice Planet. We'll take it"
Simple, yet effective.
O’ Brother Where Art Thou
"They have a plan but not a clue"
This one is a lot like the Dumb and Dumber tagline, but not quite as strong because it doesn't tell us that much about the movie.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
"One man's struggle to take it easy."
An effective tactic in many of the best taglines is to combine opposites. A struggle to take it easy is a contradiction. It makes us wonder a bit. It catches us off guard. Keep this in mind when you think about taglines, or getting people's attention. It works.
My Cousin Vinny
"A comedy of trial and error."
Every comedy that has a courtroom involved is forever jealous of My Cousin Vinny for nabbing this one.
The First Wives Club
"Don't get mad. Get everything."
There can be no more perfect tagline for a movie about divorce.
Hot Shots! Part Deux
"Just Deux it."
Hotshots went with the French word for two in their sequel. Combine that with Nike's famous slogan, and you have a solid comedy tagline.
Horror Movie Taglines
4. Make them scream
The best horror taglines tease out the fear factor in an audience. But they sometimes play with comedic elements like any other tagline might.
"Here they grow again."
Another pun. This one feels pretty close to comedy.
"Man is the warmest place to hide."
This tagline is both disgusting and a little funny. You want to know more, and you don't…
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
"Sister, sister oh so fair why is there blood all over your hair?"
The sister on sister crimes of this cult classic are all on full creepy display in the tagline.
"You'll never go in the water again."
For many moviegoers, this tagline came true.
Nightmare on Elm Street
"If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming, she won't wake up at all..."
This tagline exemplified the horror movie craze of the 1980's. The tagline and the movie poster captures exactly what makes Nightmare on Elm street scary.
Disney Movie Taglines
5. A whole new world
Disney has its own unique and compelling kind of branding. They've built an actual media empire, and the movies and their taglines have been a part of it.
"For anyone who ever wished upon a star."
This movie belongs in the horror section. Scariest movie ever. In their marketing genius, Disney gave it a tagline that makes it seem whimsical and full of magic.
"Still the fairest of them all."
Snow White was Disney's first animated feature. This movie tagline for the rerelease played on the nostalgia for the groundbreaking film and its lush visuals.
"Midnight never strikes when you're in love."
This is clever, but I actually feel like it's not true in the plot. Doesn't midnight strike when she's in love with the prince? Still works.
"Hear the pictures. See the music."
Fantasia was an expensive bomb for Walt Disney. Maybe because the tagline was a little confusing. There is some of his signature genius in it. Remember what we said about opposites within a movie tagline?
"We scare because we care."
More modern day for Disney/Pixar. This movie tagline is incorporated into the plot, and it's another effective use of contrast within the tagline.
SUPERHERO MOVIE TAGLINES
6. Power up with superheroes
There are a lot of superhero movies and not a lot of great superhero movie taglines. Probably because most of the movies themselves are pretty ho-hum.
But here are a select few that are pretty good, and have become part of the cultural lexicon.
"With great power comes great responsibility."
We're on like our 5th reboot of Spidey since Tobey Maguire first donned the tights in 2002. Nothing from any of them has come close to having the lasting impact this one creative tagline has had.
"You'll believe a man can fly."
In 1978, unlike today, audiences weren't exactly flocking to see movies about men in bright colors fighting crime. It was quite the opposite.
However, this movie suggested there was a little magic there that was worth the price of admission.
Of course, if you re-watch it now, you will most definitely NOT believe the man is flying. The effects didn't age so well.
The Dark Knight
"Why So Serious?"
This movie tagline doesn't belong on the list. It tells us almost nothing about the movie, and it's probably not what got anyone in the theater. But it has stayed with us all. The movie is arguably the best of the genre, and the tagline, as a result, is with us forever.
If you want a deeper dive on The Dark Knight, check out our post that dissects the screenplay structure using the story circle technique.
Dramatic Movie Taglines
7. Make them feel something
Drama taglines try, to use the parlance of our times, to give you the feels. All the feels, if possible. If you're trying to come up with a drama tagline think about a desired emotional state, and shoot for that.
So for this section think about how each movie tagline conjures a specific emotion or two.
"She brought a small town to its feet and a corporation to its knees."
Inspired? That's the goal of this movie tagline.
"The first casualty of war is innocence."
Now this line is just terribly sad. You feel this emotion before you've even seen the film.
Saving Private Ryan
"The mission is a man."
Determined. Hopeful. Inspired, again?
"50 million people watching but no one saw a thing."
"His story will touch you even though he can't."
Touched...yet matched with this movie poster, slightly horrifying. A fair assessment of this film's paradox.
"Good girls want him bad. Bad girls want him worse."
The Social Network
"You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."
Schadenfreude. That's not exactly a simple emotion, but when it comes to all things Mark Zuckerberg, it's what we lead with.
"There is more than one way to lose your life to a serial killer."
A combination of fascinated and worried.
Lost in Translation
"Everyone wants to be found."
"Just because you were accepted doesn't mean you belong."
"Some memories are best forgotten."
Curious and reflective.
"Everyone has one special thing."
Dare I say... excited?
"Everything is in its proper place except the past."
"We are not alone."
Filled with wonder.
ACTION MOVIE TAGLINES
8. Get the adrenaline flowing
The action movie is no stranger to puns or one-liners. In fact, we should rank those sometime in another post...
As a result, the action movie taglines tend to be pretty solid. There is a natural fit. Combining a little humor with a little edge... that's an action movie's wheelhouse.
Learn how to write and shoot action here, but for now..
Here are some of the best action movie movie taglines:
I am Legend
"The last man on Earth is not alone."
Again notice the use of a contradiction here. It poses the question the movie will answer. If he's not alone... who else is there?
"Reality is a thing of the past."
The Matrix's tagline is genius in its simplicity. Six words that cover the whole concept, but leave you with questions that need answering.
"When he said I do he never said what he did."
The title of this movie is its own tagline.
You have to imagine there were a ton of solid options turned down before they settled on this one.
Contradiction, unanswered questions... check and double check.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
"For three men the civil war wasn't hell. It was practice."
Sergio Leone is a master of anticipating violence in cinema. The violence itself isn't the point; it's the waiting. This tagline does in two sentences what his movies do in every scene. Tee you up for something brutal.
T2: Judgement Day
"Same Make. Same Model. New Mission."
This tagline says enough will be the same that you will like this, but enough will be different that you have to see it. It's a winning formula when it comes to sequels.
"You don't assign him to murder cases. You just turn him loose."
You can bet on the action and violence in this story, and it's guilt-free because it'll be about targeting bad guys. Sign us up!
So Bad They're Terrible
10 worst taglines
We're getting down to it now. The fun part. The rankings.
The difference between the best and the worst when it comes to movie taglines is slim. In some ways, this is its own best movie taglines list.
But in some ways, these movie taglines are just so awful. So beautifully terrible. Here there are in reverse order:
10. "By sword, by pick, by ax, bye bye."
This is almost a good tagline. Maybe it is a good tagline. The mutilator truly toes that thin tagline line.
Scary Movie 3
9. "Great Trilogies Come in 3's."
This is an attempt at the type of humor Naked Gun movies employed in their movie taglines. But it doesn't quite work. It's just flat out bad. There is a fine line. Maybe the movie being awful hurts it too.
8. "The Perfect Summer when the urge meets the surge."
An attempt at wordplay that just feels kinda gross.
Jaws the Revenge
7. "This time it's personal."
This became a stock bad tagline. It's almost a tagline meme. Plus, does a shark really take things personally?
The Lift Movie
6. "Take the stairs take the stairs for god's sake take the stairs."
I think this movie wants us to take the stairs.
Glen or Glenda
5. "I change my sex!"
Ok! No need to yell!
The truth is no worst list is complete without Ed Wood making a cameo.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
4. "The most amazing motion picture of our time."
A common awful tagline tactic is just to claim general awesomeness of the movie in question. Unless the movie is Scary Movie 6 and it's an obvious joke, this sort of tagline is always a bad call.
Ice, Ice Baby3. "When a girl as a heart of ice there is only one way to melt it... just add ice."
This tagline doesn't make any sense. Sort of like Vanilla Ice's career.
Charlie St. Cloud
2. "Life is for living."
And water is wet, and the sky is blue and did someone really gets paid to write this?
Day of the Dolphin
1. "Unwittingly he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States."
This is a real movie. It stars George C. Scott and was directed by Mike Nichols. So many questions so few answers.
Leave Em Wanting More
Top 10 best movie taglines
We finally made it. The definitive ranking of the ten best movie taglines of all time. If you read this far, you have survived countless puns and ten pretty awful movie taglines. You deserve the goods.
These tags accomplish much of what we have laid out so far as the keys to great movie taglines. But they do something more. They are greater than the sum of their parts. So here we go:
10. "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water."
This tagline plays well upon the original, which was also a winner. But it adds a new wrinkle.
9. "Houston, we have a problem."
This tagline is just a line from the movie, but it teased what we all knew about the true story. Another one that's with us forever.
8. "His whole life was a million to one shot"
Rocky is the ultimate underdog story. The tagline embodies that. The whole franchise embodies that. With every new film, comes another montage dedicated to this tagline.
The Fly7. "Be afraid. Be very afraid."
Another tagline that transcends being just a tagline. It might even be more famous than the movie.
6. "Part man. Part Machine. All Cop."
Robocop is an excellent movie, and the tagline tee's it up pretty well.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
5. "The longer you wait, the harder it gets."
The tagline double entendre at its pinnacle... no pun intended.
4. "Check-in. Relax. Take a shower."
When you're teeing up one of the most famous scenes in movie history, you can't go wrong.
3. "In Space, no-one can hear you scream."
This is arguably number one. It was very close…
2. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
The tagline that launched a thousand starships. And toys. And spinoffs. And rides... and it's still going.
1. "When he pours, he reigns"
They should also be cool, because they are, after all, marketing slogans. Cocktail’s tagline does it all.
Movie taglines should be fun. They should be simple.
They should have just the right amount of cheesy wordplay and tell us enough about the movie.
In the end, movie taglines are designed to get audiences to want to see your movie. Plant the seed of an idea, a drama, a conflict… and it will grow into a story in their imagination. Now hopefully, you already have a fully developed story. If you don't, grab some more tools below.
You can use StudioBinder's Screenwriting Software to write new scripts, import old scripts, and even collaborate for rewrite feedback.
If you want to see your words on a movie poster one day, stop wasting time and write down the words!
Plot tools for dramatic writing
Before you get to the tagline you first have to get through the plot. The structure of your plot is as important as the script itself. Make sure you know how to structure your plat so that all the elements of your drama come through.